Candy Man Rocket Set for Takeoff in G2 John A. Nerud

June 28, 2023

Candy Man Rocket rockets away to win the Runhappy (G3) May 13 at Belmont Park (Janet Garaguso)

By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ dual graded-stakes winner Candy Man Rocket will look to double up on stakes scores in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud, a seven-furlong main-track sprint for older horses, at Belmont Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old Candy Ride horse garnered a career-best 97 Beyer Speed Figure last out with a stalking score in the six-furlong Grade 3 Runhappy on May 13 at Belmont.

Candy Man Rocket, with regular pilot Junior Alvarado up, sat a perfect trip in third position as Beren and returning rival Twisted Ride battled on the lead. Alvarado gave Candy Man Rocket his cue late in the turn and took control at the stretch call en route to a 1 1/2-length score in a final time of 1:09.33.

“He’s run some good races and if he gets a good trip, he usually runs pretty well,” Mott said. “I think he’s fine on the lead or fine with a target. It just depends how the race sets up.”

Candy Man Rocket, a six-time winner from 11 starts, captured the 2021 Grade 3 Sam F. Davis traveling 1 1/16-miles at Tampa Bay Downs, but has focused on sprint racing in his last six starts that also includes a two-length score in the Gulfstream Park Sprint in February.

He has breezed back four times since the Runhappy, including a sharp half-mile in 47.16 seconds Saturday over the Belmont dirt training track.

“We’ve got several works into him and he’s been doing good. We’re anxious to see how he’ll do on Saturday,” Mott said.

Alvarado retains the mount from the inside post.

Twisted Ride (#2) a narrow victor of the Page McKenney Handicap April 24 at Parx (Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO)

Kasey K Racing Stable, Michael Day and Final Turn Racing Stable’s Pennsylvania-bred Twisted Ride [post 4, Andy Hernandez] picked up graded black type for the first time last out in the Runhappy.

Trained by Michael Moore, the 4-year-old Great Notion gelding dueled for the lead with mutuel favorite Beren through sharp splits of 22.60 seconds and 45.15, staying on strong to complete the exacta behind Candy Man Rocket while Beren faded to fourth.

“He tries every time. That day, he had to duel with Beren all the way and the other horse sat a real good trip behind the two of them,” Moore said. “Twisted Ride fought on and was really game. It was a good second, for sure.”

Twisted Ride streaked into the Runhappy on the back of four wins at Parx led by narrow scores in the six-furlong Fishtown in March and seven-furlong Page McKenney Handicap in April.

Moore said the seven-eighths distance is a minor concern, although the consistent gelding did capture the 1 1/16-mile City of Brotherly Love last March at Parx for his former conditioner Kathleen DeMasi.

“I think seven furlongs is about as far as he’ll go. He won a stake at seven-eighths at Parx by a nose,” Moore said. “He did win a two-turn stakes at Parx as a 3-year-old, but it was a three-horse field. Personally, I don’t think he’s a two-turn horse.”

Twisted Ride has posted a record of 10-5-3-0 since joining Moore’s barn last summer.

“He was real immature as a younger horse,” Moore said. “Throughout this year, he’s gotten a lot more mature and has focused a lot better in his races.”

Twisted Ride has breezed back three times at Parx, including a five-eighths effort in 1:00.84 on Friday. Although cross-entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Alapocas Run at Delaware Park, Moore confirmed that Twisted Ride will travel to New York.

“He breezed real good and we’re ready for the race,” Moore said.

Bred in the Keystone State by Kasey K Racing Stable, Twisted Ride, out of the multiple stakes-placed Tenpins mare Diva’s Gold, is a full-brother to stakes-winner Goodonehoney.

Little Vic makes the grade in the Tom Fool Handicap (G3) March 4 at Aqueduct (Chelsea Durand)

Graded-stakes winner Little Vic [post 5, Carlos Olivero] will make his first start since finishing a troubled last-of-6 in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets on April 8 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 4-year-old Practical Joke colt earned a career-best 102 Beyer for his 1 1/2-length score in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap in March at the Big A, but he was reported to have bled in the Carter where he attended a rapid early pace before fading.

Trained by Juan Carlos Avila for Victoria’s Ranch, Little Vic boasts a record of 14-5-3-1 for purse earnings of $327,730, including a win in the City of Laurel in November at Laurel Park ahead of runner-up efforts in the Gravesend and Grade 3 Toboggan this winter at Aqueduct.

Chiefswood Stables’ Ontario-homebred Weyburn [post 3, Jose Ortiz] will make his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

The 5-year-old Pioneerof the Nile horse spent 11-of-16 career starts in the care of conditioner James Jerkens, who now trains in Saudi Arabia for Prince Faisal bin Khalid Al Saud.

Weyburn captured back-to-back editions of the seven-furlong Sir Shackleton in 2021-22 at Gulfstream, persevering for a determined neck score with Jose Ortiz at the helm in April over next-out stakes winner Dean Delivers. He was last seen finishing a distant third in the Grade 3 Westchester here on May 5, landing six lengths back of the victorious Repo Rocks while registering a 100 Beyer.

Three Technique captures the inaugural running of the Knicks Go May 7, 2022 at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

David E. Miller, Eric Grindley, and John Werner’s multiple graded stakes-placed Three Technique [post 2, Javier Castellano] finished a close third in the 2021 John A. Nerud when in the barn of conditioner Jeremiah Englehart.

The 6-year-old Mr Speaker horse was haltered by his current trainer, Jason Cook, for $40,000 that November from a runner-up effort in a Churchill Downs sprint. He captured the restricted Knicks Go last May traveling one-mile at Churchill Downs and finished a closing third in his title defense two starts back.

Last out, he notched a head score in an optional-claiming mile on May 27 at Churchill Downs. Three Technique is cross-entered in Sunday’s $275,000 Hanshin at Ellis Park, but Cook said his charge will travel to New York.

Rounding out the field is graded-stakes placed Synthesis [post 7, Manny Franco] for owner-trainer David Jacobson; and the multiple stakes-placed Sheriff Bianco [post 6, Jose Lezcano], who is cross-entered as a main-track only entrant in a Friday turf allowance optional-claimer here for trainer Linda Rice.

The John A. Nerud is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s 10-race card which also features the Grade 3, $200,000 Dwyer in Race 6. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

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